“What Child Is This?” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Monday, December 24, 2018

“What Child Is This?” (Luke 2:1-20)

When a child is born, there are questions that people typically ask. Parents wonder, “Is he healthy?” “How much does he weigh?” Grandparents ask, “What did you name her?” “Who does she look like?” Nurses and doctors closely examine the child and want to know, “Is he alert?” “Are her lungs clear?” We expect those kinds of questions.

But there are other questions we never expect to hear at the birth of a child. No one would ever think to ask, “Who will handle his funeral arrangements someday?” Or, “What cemetery do you think he’ll be buried in?” Or, “What will cause his death?” The Scriptures say, “For everything there is a season.” And the season for asking about a person’s death is usually not at his or her birth.

The hymn we just sang asks a very unusual question about a child born in Bethlehem: “What Child Is This?” However, it is a fitting question, because this child is born in a most unusual way. His mother is a virgin. His birth is announced by a heavenly host of angels praising God. So, what child is this? The wonderful answer is proclaimed by the angel: “I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

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Published in: on December 22, 2018 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Sunday, December 24, 2017

“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” (Luke 2:1-20)

For our Christmas Eve homily tonight, I thought I’d let Luther lead the way. This is the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, after all, and Martin Luther wrote and preached much on the wonder and the mystery of Christ’s birth. It was a favorite theme of his. So tonight we’ll use Luther’s great Christmas hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,” as the basis for our meditation. You’ll find it as Hymn 358 in your Lutheran Service Book.

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Published in: on December 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Isaiah Foretold It, Jesus Fulfilled It” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

[Note: Isaiah 7 is a reading both for the Fourth Sunday in Advent and for Christmas Eve. Since the congregation did not get to hear Sunday’s sermon due to weather, and since I’ve been doing a series on the Isaiah texts, I reworked that sermon for Christmas Eve. Pastor Henrickson]

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24, 2016

“Isaiah Foretold It, Jesus Fulfilled It” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

In the hymn we just sang, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” there’s this line, “Isaiah ’twas foretold it.” And yes, it was Isaiah who did foretell it. But what was it that Isaiah foretold? Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus Christ. The gospel writer Matthew tells us as much, that this is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He writes: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” So clearly the birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy. Jesus is “God with us” in the profoundest way. And thus our theme for this evening: “Isaiah Foretold It, Jesus Fulfilled It.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Born for You a Savior” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Thursday, December 24, 2015

“Born for You a Savior” (Luke 2:1-20)

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” So the angel brought the good news of great joy to the shepherds. And so the good news comes to us tonight: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Let’s consider now, and let us rejoice in, this glorious announcement, under the theme, “Born for You a Savior.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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“What Christmas Is All About: God Saving Us, in a Humble Way, to Be His People” (Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 9:2-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“What Christmas Is All About: God Saving Us,
in a Humble Way, to Be His People”
(Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 9:2-7)

What is Christmas all about? How do people view Christmas and celebrate it? Why do they look forward to it? Or do they? Some people get burned out on Christmas and want to avoid it. But most folks still like to maintain the custom of celebrating Christmas. Why? What is it about this holiday that makes it so special? I think there is something about this holiday that is special, but it may not be the same as what most people think.

For most people, for most Americans, at least, I think it’s sort of a nostalgic glow that is the big thing about Christmas. They associate it with happy memories from days gone past. Tinsel and lights on the Christmas tree. Packages nicely wrapped and piled up under the tree. Kids eagerly awaiting the visit from Santa. Christmas cards taped to the door. Christmas stockings hung on the mantle. Christmas songs played on the radio, and Christmas specials on TV: Rudolph, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Frosty the Snowman. Happy times with Grandma and Grandpa. That special Christmas dinner, with family traveling from all over to get together, and all sitting around the table. Whether it was ham or turkey–or, in the case of us Henricksons, lutfisk and Swedish meatballs and rice pudding–Christmas dinner with the family is one of the most treasured memories of this holiday.

Now is there anything wrong with those happy associations with Christmas? No, not at all. All good things, when kept in proper perspective, and all to be enjoyed. Good stuff. But are those what Christmas really is all about? Tonight I’d like to suggest, no, those nice things, as nice as they are, are not the essence of Christmas. I think they all come out of Christmas, as a byproduct thereof, but the original connection with the essence of Christmas has become more and more loosened as the years and the centuries have gone by.

So what is Christmas all about? I’ve thought about that question, and in looking over the lessons assigned for this night, I think we can boil it down to this: “What Christmas Is All About: God Saving Us, in a Humble Way, to Be His People.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2014 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Where Is God? Answer: Immanuel” (Matthew 1:18-25)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“Where Is God? Answer: Immanuel” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Where is God in the midst of all of this? You hear this question all the time these days. Whenever there is a tragedy in the news, you hear people asking this question. “Where is God,” and then fill in the blank. Where is God when a tornado levels Moore, Oklahoma, or a typhoon devastates the Philippines? Where is God when there is a terrible school shooting–in Connecticut, in Colorado–and innocent children die? Where are you, God? Why did you let this happen?

Or let’s bring it closer to home. Where is God when a dear friend, as active and vibrant as all get out, and the most dedicated of Christians–when she suffers a stroke? Does God not care for her? Where is God when our loved one finally gets the surgery he needs to relieve his chronic pain–and then he falls, and now he needs to have another surgery, this time perhaps even riskier? Why did God let this happen? Or let’s make the tragedy more relational than physical: Where is God when your spouse leaves you for no good reason? Has he forgotten me? Why did he let this happen? Where is God when he must know that our little congregation is struggling, hurting for members and attendance and offerings? We’re being faithful in our doctrine and practice. So why isn’t God blessing our church with growth?

These are tough questions. They deal with the tough reality we face in our world, in our church, and in our lives. Where is God in all of this? There are no easy answers to this question. Oh, there is an answer, and we’ll get to it this evening, but that doesn’t mean God instantly does away with all the pain and loss and grief we experience in life. But there is an answer to our question, and it is a good one. In fact, it is a great one, much better than anything we could come up with. And it has everything to do with Christmas.

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Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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“The Gift, the Announcement, and the Exclamation Mark” (Luke 2:1-14)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Monday, December 24, 2012

“The Gift, the Announcement, and the Exclamation Mark” (Luke 2:1-14)

Suppose I got a Christmas present for you, but I didn’t tell you about it. I didn’t tell you that I had something for you, and I didn’t tell you where you could find it. Well, it could be the greatest Christmas present in the world, but if you never find out what it is or where you can find it, it won’t do you much good. You need me to tell you about it.

Well, that’s the way it is with Christmas. God has given us the greatest Christmas present we could ever hope for, but if it had stayed hidden and we didn’t know about it or where to find it, it wouldn’t do us much good. But as it stands, God not only sends the gift, but he has an angel announce it, telling us what it is and where to find it. On top of that, a whole choir of angels caps it off with a glorious hymn of praise. Their song, the Gloria in Excelsis, puts an exclamation mark on the proceedings. So we’ve got three things going on here: “The Gift, the Announcement, and the Exclamation Mark.” We’ll take them in that order.

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Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Home for the Holidays” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24, 2011

“Home for the Holidays” (Luke 2:1-20)

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.” So goes the familiar Christmas song. And it is good to be home, with family, at Christmas time. Renewed relations, good food, smiles on all the faces. There’s a fire in the fireplace, and you’re sitting in the living room, opening presents by the Christmas tree. Perry Como is singing in the background. Como, cocoa, cookies, and kids–a Christmas right out of Norman Rockwell. Very nice.

But tonight I want to tell you about something even better than that. What it really means to be home for the holidays. Really home. Your true home. For the holidays, the holy days, and beyond. It’s all wrapped up in the Christmas Gospel you just heard. Where your home is. And the answer is, where Christ is. To be where Christ is, that is really what it means to be “Home for the Holidays.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Era of Big Government Is Just Beginning” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Friday, December 24, 2010

“The Era of Big Government Is Just Beginning” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

“The era of big government is over.” So declared President Bill Clinton in his State of the Union address in January of 1996. Of course, in the fifteen years since then, our big government has gotten even bigger. The size and scope of the federal government, its power, its spending, its intrusion into our lives–way beyond the limits set for it by the Constitution–big government is bigger than ever. “The era of big government is over”? Really? I must have missed it.

As you may have guessed, and as anybody who knows me could tell you, I am an adamant opponent of big government. So it may come to you as a bit of a surprise when I tell you that tonight’s message–and this is something I’m actually happy about–the message for us on this Christmas Eve is this: “The Era of Big Government Is Just Beginning.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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